Thursday, February 16, 2006

How do I love thee...let me analyse the media coverage and sales figures

When I think of Valentines Day, the two brands that first come to mind are Hallmark and Interflora. I’m sure the card and flower markets did a roaring trade this week, but it was interesting to note from a PR perspective that those two companies were not associated highly with the Day of Love by the media.

A search in Factiva Search 2.0 revealed that Marks & Spencer and Barnes & Noble, followed by John Lewis, eBay and Starbucks received the most coverage in relation to the search term ‘Valentine’s day’. Quite surprising results – I’d love to get the respective sales figures for each company to see who profited most from February 14!

And I’m wondering if flowers are on the way out, and other romantic options like dinners, entertainment and luxury gifts are on the way in. All of these industries ranked most prominently in relation to the search term ‘Valentines Day’. Or perhaps retailers of these items ramped up a variety of communications programs to piggyback on the usual Valentines day frenzy.

With the marketing mix comprising so many elements, it can often be difficult to pinpoint which element/s drives sales most effectively.

To prove whether PR does more than build awareness - and actually drives sales - continues to be one of the perennially challenging quests for PR practitioners. We might know anecdotally that our initiatives are causing prospective or existing customers to pick up the phone and place an order, or that they're allowing our salesforce to do the same - easily - because an initiative generated much positive buzz in the media, but often the systems that track and measure business outcomes from point-of-sale, direct or online marketing campaigns are not geared up to evaluate PR campaigns in the same way.

I believe that all PR practitioners need to be aware of the impact of their initiatives on generating sales, and more importantly, committed to developing processes that demonstrate that value.


Blogger LeverWealth said...

I think the idea that PR 'drives sales' is not helpful.

Multi-touch communications (that is, PR with its relational hat on not 'press relations') creates a 'corporate cultural space' which interacts with the wider culture and provides the opportunity for a long 'conversation' or relationship. Along the way, there may be a financial transaction but the value of Public Relations is the values that are not financial durring the long conversation.

If someone came to you with a single rose (cost £1.50) would its meaning be the same as lunch (cost £15.00). No. The values we attach to the rose (a token) are different. So the value is the important thing and by that I do not even include money.

Public Relations is much more to do with building relationships than selling. That is why we have sales people.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Melanie Surplice said...

I agree that PR is about building relationships, and it takes a long time to generate trust and build credibility to start what will hopefully be a “long conversation” or relationship, particularly with new audiences. How to measure the value of those initiatives continues to be a challenge faced by PR professionals, particularly when competing with traditionally larger marketing and advertising budgets.

I’m not saying that PR alone drive sales (or that it should) – indeed, that is why we have sales people and the much broader scope of marketing activities. But in a commercial environment where we’re all becoming increasingly more accountable, I still feel that PR practitioners need to be aware of the impact of their initiatives on the sales process, and make some attempt to quantify that impact.

For me, the satisfying part of my job is not getting our company coverage in one of the national newspapers for the sake of it, rather it is when one of our salespeople calls to tell me that they were able to use that piece of coverage to get an appointment with a global 500 company with whom they have been trying to meet for six months. Or that they received a call from a prospective customer who had read an article or heard one of our speakers at a conference, who had been inspired what they’d read or heard.

The other important link between sales and PR, is that salespeople are out dealing on a day-to-day basis with customers and prospective customers. They are hearing the types of conversations that PR practitioners also need to hear in order to better understand how to start or maintain this “long conversation”. It’s why I make a point of attending at least two of our weekly sales meetings each month.

I agree that PR is about building relationships, and I would argue that Sales is too - particularly in B2B sales environments. I believe the two have to work hand-in-hand.

9:15 PM  

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